Ways to meaningfully involve young people in heritage

Ways to meaningfully involve young people in heritage

Rosie Gibson
A blog by Rosie Gibson, The National Lottery Heritage Fund Social Media Manager
We believe involving young people in heritage projects is vital - but it can be tricky. Here are some ideas.

Making heritage relevant to more – and more diverse – young people, is important to The National Lottery Hertiage Fund. That's why we set up Kick the Dust, a £10million pilot programme to explore new ways of working with young people.

In summer 2019, we held a workshop to gather the ideas learned so far from organisations that received funding.

Visual minutes taken at the workshop. Credit: Sandra Howgate


Top tips on involving young people in heritage

  • Organisations may find it useful to think about who makes decisions internally – and consider how young people can be involved in those decisions.
  • Work out who in your organisation might be enthusiastic about your project and want to help.
  • Think about how to create safe discussion spaces for young people.
  • A trustee or CEO could meet and discuss ideas with the young people at their meetings, rather than the young person having to attend a trustee meeting – which could be intimidating. 
  • Consider having training for staff, and CEO briefings run by young people about young people.
  • Young people need different routes of progression within your organisation.
  • Young people can inform adults too; it’s a two-way relationship.
  • Think about time commitments: young people have complex and busy lives and may not want to be involved all the time – or at all. 
  • Don’t impose your own agenda, stay flexible and exploratory.
  • Question your assumptions and the language you use.
  • Evaluate internal structures. For example, if you want to involve young people in a board meeting, holding it at 2pm might not be the best time if they have school, college or work.
  • Consider leadership and life skills guidance for young people as part of the project.

Learning from case studies

Every project that attended the workshop brought along an object that represented an activity or method they have successfully used to engage young people.

Norfolk Museums Service Norfolk Journeys project: clay sculpture

They said: “We’ve been working with young people involved in the criminal justice system on a project about mark making, creating marks and thinking about the marks we leave on society.

"We have found that young people want to engage with the project, but don’t always know how.”

Don’t Settle project: image of young people on visit to Migration Museum

Young people sit in circle

They said: “We are looking at neglected narratives of cultures and have been setting up a youth committee. We have been thinking about the question: ‘what do young people of colour bring to the board room?'”.

Ignite Yorkshire: logo, newly designed with young people

Branding material

“Young people wrote the brief and mission statement. It’s important that co-creation is authentic and genuine.”

The Y, Leicester: paper money

“We found that some young people were interested in money, so we gave them their own budget. Young people commissioned their own project, and heritage organisations presented ideas to them 'Dragon’s Den' style.”

Find out more

You can read more about the scheme in our Kick The Dust Evaluation.